Peanut butter salmonella warning12th January 2009
A brand of peanut butter is the subject of a health warning in the United States after a suspected link to a recent outbreak of salmonella food poisoning across the country.
Minnesota health officials issued a product alert for King Nut brand peanut butter after it was found to be contaminated with a strain of salmonella that was a genetic match for the strain that caused the outbreak.
Officials said they could not be sure, however, that any jar of King Nut peanut butter had led to any specific cases of food poisoning.
At least 399 people have been taken ill and 70 hospitalised since the outbreak began last September.
Officials from Minnesota's departments of agriculture and health issued product advisory for King Nut brand creamy peanut butter after finding the salmonella typhimurium bacteria in a large jar of the kind used in institutions.
In a statement, they said the Minnesota cases had the same genetic fingerprint as the cases in a national outbreak that has sickened almost 400 people in 42 states.
The product was distributed in Minnesota to hospitals, schools, universities, restaurants, long-term care facilities, cafeterias and bakeries.
The product is not known to be distributed for retail sale in grocery stores, and institutions serving the peanut butter were being urged to avoid serving it pending further advice. Investigations are continuing.
California has been hardest hit in the outbreak, with 55 cases, while Ohio had 53 and Minnesota had 30, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is still trying to trace the source of the outbreak together with experts from the US Department of Agriculture, state health officials and the Food and Drug Administration.
A total of 42 states have been affected. Peanut butter bearing the brand name Peter Pan was linked to a salmonella outbreak in 2007, resulting in the closure of a food plant belonging to ConAgra Foods Inc in the southern state of Georgia.
Poultry, cheese and eggs are the most common source of salmonella typhimurium strains, but tracing the source of an outbreak can be difficult.
CDC figures show around 40,000 people reported ill with salmonella in the United States annually, although the actual figures are thought to be much higher.
The US has been hit by several high-profile outbreaks of food poisoning, including a strain of salmonella carried by peppers from Mexico that sickened 1,400 people from April to August 2007 and an E coli epidemic in 2006, traced to California spinach, that killed three people.
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